Eden Hazard: I'm a 'completely different' player than Lionel Messi
LONDON -- Eden Hazard says he's flattered to earn comparisons to Lionel Messi but insisted he's a "completely different" player ahead of Tuesday's Champions League clash with Barcelona at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea go into the round of 16 first-leg as underdogs against the unbeaten La Liga leaders, but Hazard's form on the European stage this season gives them hope of an upset.
And Hazard said at a news conference on Monday that facing Barcelona is a good opportunity to show that he deserves to be considered among the world's top players.
"It's good to be compared with the greatest ever, Messi or [Cristiano] Ronaldo," he said. "But I'm completely different. We play in a different league.
"I try to do my job and try to reach their level, because they are the best in the world. Every season I try and do my best.
"When we play this kind of games, we need to perform. If you want to be one of the best, you have to play well in the big games. This is a big game. Let's go for it and try and give everything.
"Last year we didn't play Champions League, but this year we are back and I played a few good games: Atletico Madrid away, Roma, and here against Madrid.
"You want to shine when you play the best in the world. If I want to reach that level, I need to do a great game tomorrow."
Hazard, 27, is under contract with the Premier League champions until June 2020, but has been the subject of ongoing speculation linking him with a summer move to Real Madrid.
And when asked whether Tuesday's encounter with Barcelona would be the "first of many, but not necessarily with Chelsea," the Belgian forward stopped short of admitting he will see out his current deal at the club.
"First, I see the game tomorrow," Hazard said. "We are going to face Barca. I play for Chelsea for now six years. I'm just happy here. Like you say, I have two years left on my contract, but I'm happy here, my family is happy here.
"Now I'm just focused on the game tomorrow to the end of the season. I don't think much about the future because you never know what happens in the future, but I'm just happy here. I'm thinking about tomorrow, that's it."
The visit of Barcelona is the start of a crucial period of fixtures for Chelsea, with trips to Manchester United and Manchester City looking in the league prior to the second leg at Camp Nou.
And Hazard accepts that Chelsea are now entering a decisive stage of their season.
"For sure, we have two weeks and we know the games we play," he said. "But we play football for these games.
"We are Chelsea. We are the champions of England. We are ready. We can face them, we can beat them as well. Let's go for it."
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_